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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 6

How Video Games Change the Brain

Playing violent video games can sharpen our focus, reasoning and decision-making skills. But do we really need the weapons?

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I am in an overgrown lot leaning against an eight-foot-tall shipping container. I look both ways, weighing my options. A man with an assault rifle is looking for me, just as I am looking for him. Hoping for a better vantage point, I run toward the abandoned car to my right. A metallic bang rings out as my opponent's shot hits the wall I have just left. I dodge around the next container, then circle behind it. Raising my M16, I peer through the scope as I run. There he is! I hit the track pad of my laptop hard and fast, but my aim is wobbly. I miss. He spins, fires, and I'm dead.

So ended my introduction to first-person-shooter video games. Clearly, I was not very good. With practice, I would probably get better. What is less obvious is that a decade of research has shown that if I spent a few more hours playing Call of Duty, I could improve more than my aim and the life expectancy of my avatar. Aspects of my vision, attention, spatial reasoning and decision making would all change for the better.

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